By Marc S. Sanders

Jurassic Park III.  What’s to say?  Well not much.  The third film in the dino franchise plays like an extension of the first two.  Sam Neill is brought back as paleontologist, Dr. Alan Grant.  Sadly, the rest of the cast is terrible.  Yet, the dinosaurs remain marvelous.

Following an opening sequence parasailing adventure gone wrong, an enormously wealthy couple, the Kirbys (William H Macy, Tea Leoni), recruit Dr. Grant and his apprentice Billy (Alessandro Nivola) for a vacation excursion to the restricted island of Ilsa Sorna as a twentieth anniversary celebration for them to see the exotic, resurrected animals.  Grant and Billy are to be their tour guides.  The offer is too good for the doctor to refuse and off they go. Once on the island, the mayhem we’ve all grown accustomed to commences.

The intelligence of the Jurassic films only comes from one source, and that is the special effects makers of these animals.  The attention to detail in skin texture, eye movement, teeth, roars, claws, limbs and facial expressions are sensational.  You truly believe these are actual living creatures.  These wizards reinvent themselves with a new dinosaur known as the Spinosaurus.  Bigger than a T-Rex and at least as fast as the velociraptors.  This is a BEAST!!!!!! 

Director Joe Johnston takes the director chair from Steven Spielberg. While the magic is lacking this time around in some of the thrills and scares, at least the new director has some fun with a couple of gags.  A cell phone (the new novel household item at the time of this film’s release) plays for some laughs, especially when the Spinosaurus appears on the scene.  There’s also a magnificent sequence in the Pteranodon bird cage.  Love the Pteranodons.  Finally, we get to see the winged dinosaurs in action as they lift the various members of the cast into the air with their claws and snap their beaks for a couple of nips.  There’s a great close up of one Pteranodon that is one for the ages.  He turns his sinister head over his shoulder towards the camera with a “Wanna fuck with me?” expression.  It’s like it was modeled off of Robert DeNiro.  Great stuff.

Raptors are back, and while we may have seen all of this before, I don’t get tired of it.  It’s like seeing a thrilling car chase for the fiftieth time.  As long I’m thrilled, I guess I’m satisfied.  Nevertheless, being that this is the third chapter, I was hoping for something more with some insight in the film.

My colleague, Miguel Rodriguez, notes that this installment as well as the prior one serves merely as amusement park fun rides.  All true.  I think I’ve backed that up here.  However, there are so many unexplored elements within the franchise originally conceived by novelist Michael Crichton.  For example, there’s the secret scientific research and development company known as InGen – the party responsible for discovering how to resurrect dinosaurs in the modern age.  Three movies in, and we’ve barely gotten to know InGen.  I think it’s time we do.  There’s gotta be a CEO at the top who is twirling his mustache amid his or her dominance.  That would really play for some good storytelling.  At best, in all three films to this point, we just get the InGen logo printed on the side of some motorized vehicles and laboratory doors. 

Much like the Alien franchise (with Weyland-Yutani), these puppet masters are never fully realized.  One of the three (THREE????) co-writers of Jurassic Park III is director/writer Alexander Payne (Election, About Schmidt).  With a genius mind like that couldn’t we have been treated to something that had more depth than just jaws, beaks, teeth, claws and roars?  What we are left with is an annoying William H Macy (one of his worst career roles) and an even worse Tea Leoni (feels like I’m watching Chrissy from Three’s Company) as the Kirbys.  They quickly provide a twist to their purpose in the movie.  It’s a dumb twist.  It’s hard to believe a doctorate mind like Alan Grant is supposed to have never seen this unexpected turn of events coming and it takes up space where the writers could have spent time bringing more back story to the Jurassic Park universe.  Crichton lined it all up!  Why didn’t the filmmakers pounce on these golden ideas?

That’s all there is to say.  Jurassic Park III is a popcorn movie.  Nothing else.  It’s only just a somewhat satisfying popcorn movie, though.  You miss the Spielberg touch, and you wish for just a little more dimension.  You don’t get it, but you do get the “don’t fuck with me” attitude of a nasty looking Pteranodon.  That alone is worth ninety minutes of your time.

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